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Love your TV crime dramas but need something a little less intense?
McDonald & Dodds is your answer. With the first series available on BritBox and a second coming soon, there’s plenty to love about these sedate, middle-class murder mysteries.
More Midsomer Murders than Marcella, McDonald & Dodds is the comfy pair of slippers of today’s TV crime series – and we mean that as a compliment.
Here, the cast and crew help explain why you need to settle down for three new feature-length episodes...
1. The guest stars are ridiculously good
Like Death in Paradise, McDonald & Dodds is quickly becoming known for bringing in some brilliant names.
After a first series that included the likes of Robert Lindsay and Hugh Dennis, series 2 takes it up a notch – kicking off with Rob Brydon, Patsy Kensit and Martin Kemp in a back-to-the-80s plotline in episode 1.
John Thomson, Sharon Rooney and Shelley Conn are part of a rugby-club death mystery in episode 2, while Sarah Parish, Saira Choudhry and Nitin Ganatra join episode 3, which tackles the world of plastic surgery.
Jason Watkins, who stars as DS Dodds, said: “I obviously enjoyed so much working with Rob. He’s such a brilliant comic actor and watching his work, he’s really good at straight acting as well, which I think is where the show sits.”
Martin and Patsy are ideal guest stars for the first episode of series 2, which focuses on a group of friends who achieved notoriety in the 80s.
“It was a great time to be involved in music and the music business,” mused Martin. “I had lots of fun stories I could draw on but I would be arrested if I told you!”
Patsy laughed: “We had a few late nights in the 80s and definitely the 90s, but that’s all in the past obviously!
“It was a really creative time. We all used to go to this club called the Wag club. I was 15 and snuck out and went to it. They turned people away at the door and I managed to get in with my best friend. I walked up the stairs and literally, this tiny club with all of Spandau Ballet, Madness, Sade – literally the top 10 in the charts were all there.”
And the pair didn’t need much persuading to take on the roles.
Martin said: “I love this kind of genre. When the script came to me, the first thing it took me back to was that I did a Miss Marple years ago.
“I had such a great experience doing that, that I jumped at this. I love this kind of drama.”
Patsy laughed: “I’m obsessed with the Crime + Investigation channel. I love things like teenagers that kill their parents – murder, murder, murder! And then they have the fictional shows as well. I’m obsessed. It’s an unhealthy interest in these things but it’s true – kill, kill, kill!
“My kids, before they moved out they were like ‘Mum, you are really weird’. So I’m all over it, and this was a great script.”
2. Murder has never been this fun
A man plunging to his death from a hot air balloon. A supposed burglar found dead in a huge family mansion. A body discovered near a railway tunnel following a rugby club party.
TV drama involving deaths and murder can be gruesome and disturbing, but McDonald & Dodds instead focuses on the mysteries around these unexplained deaths – adding in grand scenery and music, a witty script and an amusing relationship between the two lead characters.
Jason admitted it isn’t intense drama – and they wouldn’t want it to be.
“It’s not Line of Duty but we can still be real and be funny as well. And that goes for the whole cast of the whole three episodes. There’s a real colour and flavour. It’s lovely being in it, but it’s a great watch.”
Executive producer Damien Timmer added: “Robert [Murphy, creator and executive producer] was coming up with the stories for this series as the first lockdown started. We wanted to make a really good-natured treat for the audience – something that was fun, escapist viewing.”
3. You’ll want to invite McDonald and Dodds round for tea
We don’t even know DS Dodds’ first name, but he’s the kind of man who’d be quite happy to come over for a cuppa and carefully explain parts of his wide-ranging knowledge (which inevitably helps him solve the cases).
He’d also be tucking into one of Dodds’ trademark snacks – chips and butter.
Jason laughed: “When you start eating the chips and butter you think ‘Why do people do this?!’ and then you taste it and [you say] ‘I see! I get it now – that’s really nice.’ And then by the time you’ve finished shooting the scene it’s all sitting in your stomach so it’s really gross.
“We got to watch the [first] episode the other night and my wife was saying ‘God, he’s just like you!’ so that’s worrying."
DCI McDonald would probably be rolling her eyes at his lack of speed and unsavoury snacking, but despite being polar opposites in character, the pair have grown to respect and even like each other as the show has gone on.
Jason continued: “I suppose they are pushing against their type in a way, and yet staying that couple that we grew to know and enjoy in the first series. I think they’re both in a learning process.
“They’re so different and yet they have this great bond and affection for each other, they’re kind of magnets. They’re going forward together, facing whatever challenge is coming their way. They look out for each other, which is something I noticed more as we went through the three episodes. They have a keen eye on each other’s welfare which I think is really touching.”
Tala Gouveia, who plays DCI McDonald, said: “I think the affection has grown. There’s a lot more trust within the partnership and they’re both quite loyal to each other and they come to rely on each other. I think they like each other now.”
She explained that DCI McDonald has calmed down slightly since her feisty arrival in series one.
“I think she’s settled more in her job. She’s a lot more confident. She’s a lot less loud, she’s a lot less bolshy – she’s less of a bull in a china shop. She’s found her place and understands her team more.”
Series 2 of McDonald & Dodds begins at 8pm on Sunday, February 28, on ITV.
Catch up with series 1 on BritBox.